An Arts and Crafts gem in the Burnaby for €2.3m

Ireland’s first and possibly finest housing estate was commenced by a 24-year-old woman in 1895

This article is 5 months old
Address: Glanseskin, Portland Road North, The Burnaby, Greystones, Co Wicklow,
Price: €2,300,000
Agent: Sherry FitzGerald
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No story about the Burnaby in Greystones is complete without reference to the remarkable and fabulous-sounding Lizzie Le Blond. With chestnut tresses, born Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed, it was she who developed The Burnaby; Ireland’s first ever housing estate and now an ACA (architectural conservation area).

Le Blond was the surname of her third and final husband, though she called her Greystones development after her first, the equally marvellous-sounding Fredrick Gustavus Burnaby. They wed at 18 and 38 respectively and despite a bun in the oven post-honeymoon, the couple barely spoke. They remained together until their son Harold was born but prior to their first wedding anniversary she’d hopped off to Switzerland and he took on the world, as a bohemian eccentric until he died in Sudan.

She became an alpinist having scaled Mont Blanc twice and made more than a 100 descents (“in high-heeled buttoned boots” – she had to wear Victorian dress when starting or they wouldn’t provide a guide) between the Alps and Norway, publishing a number of books and films on the subject, and becoming legendary among women climbers worldwide.

Not to mention the fact that in 1895, the 24-year-old woman built possibly the finest housing estate still in Ireland today. The remarkable tale of their lives features in londondead.blogspot with lots of photographs to boot.


Le Blond inherited lands where the Burnaby now stands when she was just 11-years-old. At the age of 24 and said to be inspired by the La Touche family – who were neighbours – and the Victorian architectural conservationist and textile designer William Morris, the Arts and Crafts houses began to be developed from 1895 until 1910. With gable windows, high pitched roofs the use of brick, stone and copper added much architectural interest. Houses here sat on large sites attracting the well-heeled of the time, and it has remained this way ever since.

It’s not hard to see why. Take Glanseskin a superb Arts and Crafts house, which the current owners purchased 20 years ago before their eldest child started school. Believed to be the second house constructed in the Burnaby, it originally sat on about two acres and ran from Portland Road as far as Whitshed Road.

Original woodwork details are remarkable and credit goes to its occupants, Aedamar O’Rourke and Brian Farrell, who have repaired and refurbished original details in the house, especially original Arts and Crafts elements such as the stair panelling – which had to be stripped of paint and French polished – which Farrell undertook himself.

In addition, original windows have been refurbished and anything that had been painted over in the 1980s was stripped back to its original form. The couple also hung William Morris wallpaper, which is contemporaneous with the property, and superb original quarry tiles and pitch-pine floors are preserved for another generation.

In terms of rooms, they knocked a set of “old pokey rooms, which were more than likely staff quarters” to make one larger space and a conservatory was also added to the dining room. This and the drawingroom benefit from a suntrap terrace linking the south and east elevations.

The sense of “wow” is evident in the front hallway. Besides the remarkable craftsmanship of the staircase, a cast-iron fireplace comes to light at Christmas when the family erect the tree in the hall. “The architect must have been a really good designer; as soon as you light the fire here – which we do at Christmas and for parties – you can feel the heat up the stairs” O’Rourke says.

Her favourite room is the drawingroom: “It’s just so lovely to sit and look out through the two bay windows, and see the gardens change through the seasons”, which is one of four reception rooms in the 382sq m (4,112sq ft) house. A family room, livingroom and formal dining room complete the reception rooms downstairs along with a large utility, home office, a loo and large kitchen.

Upstairs are five double bedrooms with the principal having a lovely bay window overlooking parts of the garden.

The gardens are also a big plus, and were one of the attractions for the couple who have developed them over the past two decades. Occupying an acre, new owners can enjoy annual crops of cider apples – which have been made into cider each year – along with plums, pears, cherries and figs. A woodland walk just inside the gates allows for nature to thrive and is a contrast to the manicured lawns below herbaceous terraces.

There is also a tennis court, a double workshop, wood store, a gardeners’ shed and a greenhouse.

With the advent of an empty nest they are moving on but they say it was an idyllic place to raise a family.

Agent Eamon Foley explains that Portland Road North “is one of the Burnaby’s best kept secrets, as it offers a short cut (via Farm Lane) to Greystones Golf Club”. The Arts and Crafts gem, which has a Ber of E1, is now on the market through Sherry FitzGerald seeking €2.3 million.

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables